Sky Island (novel)
|Author(s)||L. Frank Baum|
|Illustrator||John R. Neill|
|Publisher||Reilly & Britton|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Sea Fairies|
|Followed by||The Scarecrow of Oz|
Sky Island: Being the Further Adventures of Trot and Cap'n Bill after Their Visit to the Sea Fairies is a children's fantasy novel written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill, and published in 1912 by the Reilly & Britton Company — the same constellation of forces that produced the Oz books in the first decades of the twentieth century.
As the full title indicates, Sky Island is a sequel to Baum's The Sea Fairies of 1911. Both books were intended as parts of a projected long-running fantasy series to replace the Oz books. Given the relatively tepid reception of the first book in the series, however, Baum tried to attract young readers by including two characters from his Oz mythos in Sky Island — Button Bright and Polychrome, originally introduced in The Road to Oz (1909).
The book was dedicated to the author's sister, Mary Louise Baum Brewster.
Plot summary 
Trot is near her home on the coast of southern California when she meets a strange little boy with a large umbrella. Button Bright has been using his family's magic umbrella to take long-range journeys from his Philadelphia home, and has gotten as far as California. After an explanation of how the magic umbrella works, the two children, joined by Cap'n Bill, decide to take a trip to a nearby island; they call it "Sky island," because it looks like it's "halfway in the sky" — but the umbrella takes them to a different place entirely, a literal island in the sky.
Sky Island is another split-color country in Baum's fantasy universe, like the Land of Oz or the Island of Yew (in The Enchanted Island of Yew, from 1903). Divided in two halves, blue and pink, Sky Island supports two separate and hostile races of beings. The three travellers land on the blue side of Sky Island, which is a grim country ruled by a sadistic tyrant, the Boolooroo of the Blues. In Sky Island, as in Oz, no one can be killed or suffer pain, but that doesn't mean one is safe: the Boolooroo's method of punishing disobedience in his subjects is to split his victims into halves using a huge guillotine-type knife, and then join the wrong halves back together, creating very unhappy asymmetrical mixed people. This is called "patching." The Boolooroo threatens to do the same to his new visitors; meanwhile he keeps them imprisoned, and gives Trot as a slave to his daughters, the Six Snubnosed Princesses (named Cerulia, Turquoise, Sapphire, Azure, Cobalt, and Indigo).
The three protagonists manage to escape from the Blues; penetrating the Great Fog Bank that separates the island's halves and meeting its strange inhabitants, they reach the pink or "sunrise" side of the island. The pink country is a much friendlier and more relaxed place than the blue side, with cheerfully chubby residents. The visitors get a better reception, since they are rather pink in color themselves, albeit of a sadly wan and pale shade. Unfortunately, the laws of the pink country insist that the visitors be thrown off the edge of Sky Island; even the country's ruler, the sylph-like Tourmaline the Poverty Queen, cannot pardon them. Polychrome, however, descends from the rainbow like a deus ex machina to resolve the problem. Trot is promoted to Queen of the Pinkies, because she has the palest skin among them. After Cap'n Bill leads an invasion of the opposite side, Trot becomes "Booloorooess" of the Blues as well; and so she is able to "regulate" both societies into more sensible forms. The three travellers eventually return to their homes, more than a little relieved at their escape from Sky island.
The bipartite structure of Sky Island allows Baum to inject ironic and satiric commentary on xenophobia, isolationism, race and color prejudice, social biases, personal vanity, and related issues. The Blues think that their dismal island-half "is the Center of the Universe and the only place anyone would care to live." Their scientists have "proven" that the Earth below, a ball of mud and water, cannot support life. The Snubnosed Princesses think that a snub nose is "the highest mark of female beauty" and "an evidence of high breeding which any lady would be proud to possess."
Even with the inclusion of Ozite characters, and even though it is, in the judgment of some critics, "far superior" to its predecessor, Sky Island sold even fewer copies in its first year than The Sea Fairies had; 11,750 copies of Sky Island were sold in 1912. Baum attempted to launch two other juvenile novel series in the same 1911–12 period, The Flying Girl and The Daring Twins, neither of which was a long-term success. Disappointing sales inspired Baum and Reilly & Britton to view a return to Oz as an obvious and necessary step, leading to the publication of The Patchwork Girl of Oz and the Little Wizard Stories of Oz the next year, 1913. In 1918, however, Baum wrote that he thought Sky Island would probably be remembered as his best work.
- Patrick M. Maund, "Bibliographia Baumiana: Sky Island," The Baum Bugle, Vol. 39 No. 2 (Autumn 1995), pp. 22-25.
- For insight on the question of tolerance versus bias in Baum's canon, see: Daughters of Destiny; Father Goose: His Book; Father Goose's Year Book; and Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea.
- Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography, New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002; p. 193.
- L. Frank Baum, The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Michael Patrick Hearn; revised edition, New York, W. W. Norton, 2000; Introduction, p. lxxxiv.